LONDON — The British Ministry of Defence has tapped MBDA to demonstrate an electronic warfare version of the company’s Spear missile.

The idea is to replace the warhead with a miniaturized payload, made by Leonardo, that can jam enemy air defenses or beckon them away from strike missiles following in their wake, the company said at the DSEI defense trade show in London.

“These state-of-the-art electronic jammers will confuse our adversaries and keep our pilots safer than ever in the air,” Defence Procurement Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan was quoted as saying in an MBDA statement. “Paired with the devastating power of precision Brimstone and Meteor missiles, our world-class F-35 and Typhoon jets will continue to rule the skies in the years to come.”

MBDA plans to offer the new missile for swarm-like scenarios, meaning a number of them would be launched ahead of traditional strike weapons to confuse and overwhelm radar defenses.

The electronic warfare weapon is meant to “complement” the Spear miniature cruise missile variant, which is designed to “precisely engage long range, mobile, fleeting and re-locatable targets,” the company said. Both variants share the same architecture and propulsion system, which provide enough juice for the jammer version to loiter above prospective targets.

Small, expendable drones — or missiles, in this case — are a prominent requirement for two next-generation combat aircraft programs taking shape in Europe: the Tempest and the Future Combat Air System. The miniaturized, networked platforms are envisioned to accompany larger strike aircraft and provide support capabilities, like jamming or reconnaissance, from a distance.

MBDA is the designated weapons maker for both the British-Swedish-Italian Tempest effort and the French-German-Spanish FCAS program.

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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